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Chiefs use play action to create big plays on offense vs. Texans

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

IF the Kansas City Chiefs consistently demonstrate the ability to pass the ball like they did in the first half against the Houston Texans then we need to begin considering that this team has a higher ceiling than the nine-win, one-and-done that many have expected out of them.

The offense came back to Earth in the second half but the way they started got my attention. As ESPN's Adam Teicher pointed out, the Chiefs had two passes of more than 42 yards last season and neither of them came until December (remember that heave to Jason Avant last year?). This year, it took just 10 plays to pass that as Alex Smith hit Travis Kelce for a 42-yard touchdown.

There were a few passes that stood out to me:

The first touchdown pass to Kelce. Smith had to throw a high ball in a spot where only Kelce could get it. Kelce is a big body who understands his leverage so give him a shot to go up and get it.

A 20-yard out to Jeremy Maclin. You see this all the time from quarterbacks named Manning or Rodgers. Smith can do this consistently because Maclin is a terrific route-runner who can create separation. That wasn't the case with Dwayne Bowe last year and this play was a great example of that. This is an anticipation throw  - the screengrab below shows Alex winding up while Maclin is still faking inside before going back outside.

The incomplete deep left pass to Jeremy Maclin. Incomplete or not, the Chiefs need to take that shot at least a couple of times per game for the pass interference calls alone. It's first down here, one one one with your $55 million man. No reason not to try this.

Is it a coincidence the Chiefs three longest plays came on play action?

Probably not. According to stats from Pro Football Focus, Alex Smith was 8-of-11 on play action for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 13 drop backs.

The Chiefs play action is dangerous because they have a back in Jamaal Charles who the defense has to respect. The Chiefs also line up with multiple tight ends regularly making you pay extra attention to the rushing attack because Kansas City has no problem choosing to burn you with Jamaal instead of Alex* stretching the field. And as it turns out, when you rush for more yards per carry than any back in NFL history defenses notice that.

I'm not convinced Alex Smith makes these passes last year. Maybe I'm just misremembering to make the Chiefs look better (tis the season) but the eye test told me that the Chiefs opened it up more and the results - 27 first half points - showed what happens when the Chiefs do that.

In summary, I liked the passing game in the Texans game and hope to see more of that vs. Denver.

*#WellActually, we know Andy is gonna Andy at some point and just start passing the ball no matter what but whatever.